Friday, April 29, 2011

Tri-City Hospital board chief says judge may have been bribed

Many of the lawyers involved in the Tri-City Healthcare brouhaha are also involved in local schools. One of them, Greg Moser, seems to be saying in the story below that the law allows elected officials to make false statements about a judge having been bribed. No, Greg, there is a line, and this statement crosses it. You really should know that.

Ironically, in addition to trying to get a restraining order against board member Kathleen Sterling, the Tri-City board recently developed a policy calling for members of the public to be arrested if they speak out too vociferously at board meetings. Apparently, the board majority thinks no one can sound off except them.

Also ironic is the fact that Kathleen Sterling has struggled to pay an attorney; how could she bribe a judge? It seems that RoseMarie Reno may have let her power go to her head--and she might not be getting the best advice. Who's been encouraging her to hound Kathleen Sterling?

See all posts re Tri-City Healthcare.

OCEANSIDE: Hospital board chief says judge may have been bribed
North County Times - The Californian
April 29, 2011

In a public meeting Thursday night, the board president of the Tri-City Healthcare District said fellow board member Kathleen Sterling may have "paid ... off" a Superior Court judge who recently refused the district's request for multiple restraining orders against her.

During board comments at the meeting, Sterling read lengthy excerpts from an April 4 ruling by Judge Richard E. Mills that found Sterling posed no threat to board members or employees at the Oceanside-based hospital, contrary to the health care district's claims.

Board President RoseMarie Reno cut Sterling off after a three-minute limit for board-member comments, then said about the ruling "It's unfortunate that you may have paid Judge Mills off beforehand."

Several people in the crowd gasped at the remark.

"I'm sorry," Reno said hastily, adding that she felt the outcome of the case should have been different. On Friday, she declined to elaborate on her statement.

Sterling referred any questions to her attorney, Kerry Eskenas, who denied that her client had any kind of inappropriate exchange with Mills. Eskenas said she thought the outlandish remark was also directed at Sterling's attorneys.

"Such an outrageous false accusation will have legal consequences," Eskenas said.

Reno's statement could have legal implications.

On one hand, bribing a judge is a felony in California. On the other hand, knowingly making an untrue and damaging statement against another person could be defamation.

Mills, through his law clerk, said that he could not respond to Reno's statement. The clerk said Mills asked her to release the following statement:

"The case is not over. Motions for attorney's fees and other matters will be heard in the future. The code of judicial ethics prohibits a judge from commenting on any matter relating to an open case."

Though Reno's remark raised eyebrows, Tri-City board attorney Greg Moser said the law grants elected officials considerable latitude in their discussions at public meetings.

"There is generally pretty broad immunity for comments made by board members at board meetings," Moser said.

Thursday's exchange is the latest in a public battle between Sterling and other board members ---- Reno, in particular. Sterling has been censured by the board seven times during the last year amid allegations that she intimidated hospital employees and offered to trade her vote, among other things.

Sterling still faces a felony charge of vote trading and a $100,000 civil lawsuit brought by the hospital and one security guard regarding events that occurred during a Feb. 24 hospital board meeting.

The requests for restraining orders ---- made by three Tri-City directors and three employees ---- centered on two allegations of violence that some witnesses said took place before and after that meeting.

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